Flushing in the right place

It's official: no more releasing raw sewage in all 1,320 square miles of Long Island Sound.

That's good news for Mother Earth.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave New York state the authority to designate its half of the estuary as a no-discharge zone, making it illegal for boaters to flush their septic systems into the Sound.

Connecticut's side of the Sound has been a federally sanctioned no-discharge zone since 2007, and the addition of the New York portion of the waterway is worthy of hearty applause.

While all the effort in Connecticut has been commendable, the fact that boaters could cross a magic line in the Sound and flush, well, that was just stinky.

The Sound is Connecticut's largest and most important natural resource, and not just a place for boating, fishing and swimming, but also a means of commerce, helping to pump $5.5 billion annually into the regional economy.

It provides feeding, breeding, and nesting areas for a multitude of plant and animal life. Keeping this precious resource clean is a benefit to everyone, but especially to the 8 million people who live and recreate along the Sound and its connecting waterways.

Over the past 30 years, Connecticut has made a significant commitment to protecting and restoring Long Island Sound, including adopting its no-discharge zone. New York's establishment of a similar program will now ensure that boaters all around the Sound discharge their sewage to pump-out stations or transient pump-out boats that will ferry it to an on-shore facility or municipal treatment plant.

The idea is to keep waste out of the Sound by making proper waste-handling facilities more convenient to boaters. Doing that helps to improve water quality.

At Tuesday's announcement Joe Martens, commissioner of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, noted his state's participation in the program "closes a loophole."

Indeed it does, and that is a real plus for Long Island Sound.

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